Thursday 14 November 17:30 - 19:00

SW1.18, Somerset House East Wing
King's College London

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Corrective 'Re-education' as Cultural Genocide in Xinjiang (Uyghur region)


A lecture with Joanne Smith Finley as part of the Human Rights, Development and Global Justice Series


In this time of political 're-education', Xi Jinping’s Han-majoritarian state has reconstructed the Uyghur body, mind, language, religion and culture as an existential and biological threat to the Chinese nation (Smith Finley 2019; Roberts 2018). An examination of the 2017 Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Regulations on De-Extremification and related documentation reveals a disturbing concept of 'correction' that reminds us of Bradley Campbell's (2009) notion of genocide as social control: a top-down moralistic correction of 'deviant' behaviour by an increasingly powerful and violent state. In this talk, I draw upon Bradley's theory to illuminate instances of linguistic, religious and cultural erasure documented in visual data and 'guerrilla interviews' (Gold 1989) collected during my field trip to Xinjiang (Urumchi and Kashgar) in June-July 2018. Concurring with Clarke's (2018) view that the Chinese state's true motivation in labelling Uyghur opposition as ‘religious extremism’ is to generate diplomatic capital for the ongoing repression of Uyghur autonomist aspirations, I will suggest that 're-education' in Xinjiang is a 'final solution' to defeat a perceived anti-colonialist movement and erase the Uyghur identity as that movement's lifeforce.

Speaker bio:

Joanne Smith Finley is Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies in the School of Modern Languages, Newcastle University, UK. Her research interests include evolving Uyghur identities in Xinjiang, China; Islam, gender and the state in Xinjiang and the Uyghur diaspora; PRC counter-terrorism as state terror in the era of mass internment; and corrective 're-education' in Xinjiang as cultural genocide. Her monograph The Art of Symbolic Resistance: Uyghur Identities and Uyghur-Han Relations in Contemporary Xinjiang (Brill Academic Publishing) was published in 2013. Dr Smith Finley is co-editor of two volumes: Situating the Uyghurs between China and Central Asia (Ashgate, 2007) and Language, Education and Uyghur Identity in Urban Xinjiang (Routledge, 2015), and Guest Editor of a Special Issue (2019) for Central Asian Survey, titled: 'Securitization, Insecurity and Conflict in Contemporary Xinjiang'.

About the Human Rights, Development and Global Justice Series:

Our series aims to create an open, interdisciplinary academic platform for the discussion of issues related to human rights, development and global justice. Special attention is given to the global south, but not to the exclusion of other places.

We hope to generate exchanges furthering academic insight and creativity, to strengthen the School’s connections with scholars around the world, and to enrich undergraduate and postgraduate teaching curricula among the School’s wide offering of modules related to the jurisprudence of human rights, transnational human rights, and global justice more widely.

The events series is currently convened by Professor Eva Pils. It is supported by funding provided by The Dickson Poon School of Law. This event is also sponsored by the Transnational Law Institute. For information about other events in the series, please visit the King's College London website.


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